BY LIM TEIK HUAT
IPOH: Anita Raj Kaur, who is still under probation in the national team, staved off a determined challenge from 15-year-old Lydia Cheah to become the new women's singles national champion in the National Badminton Grand Prix Finals at Indera Mulia Stadium yesterday.
The 18-year-old debutant, however, did not have it easy against Lydia, the youngest women's singles finalist ever.
Anita, in fact, trailed behind Lydia and was forced to dig deep into her reserves to carve out the 13-10, 11-9 victory to become the first non-Chinese national champion.
AWESOME FINISH: Anita Raj Kaur posing eith ther medal and mock cheque after beating Lydia Cheah to become the new women's single national champion in the National Badminton Grand Prix Finals.
Lydia showed fine control and attacking skills to race into a 7-0 lead in the first game but Anita clawed her way back to 8-9 and eventually forced duece.
The second game also saw Lydia ahead at 7-2. But her eagerness to win saw her making some unforced errors to concede defeat.
A jubilant Anita, who pumped up her fists in celebration after Lydia's return hit the net, said she had made many mistakes in the first game.
“I had not warmed up properly because I assumed we will play after the mixed doubles. I made a lot of mistakes but she was also committing errors as the game progressed.
“That gave me the confidence to put pressure on her,” said Anita, who pocketed RM4,000 for her efforts.
And the KL-born lass showed she had a big heart as well when she said she would donate part of her prize money to an orphanage.
“I had prayed hard to do well in this National GP Finals and I want to show my appreciation in a way. I also plan to give my family a treat. They have been supportive of my efforts,” added Anita, who represented Malaysia in the World Junior Championships in Vancouver two months ago.
Lydia, obviously, was disappointed.
“I was leading twice but I was rushing to kill the shuttle towards the end. I was not nervous. I could have won if I had had better composure,” she said.
However, the lanky girl said she was happy with her overall performance in the National GP Finals.
Lydia, who received RM2,000 as the runner-up will leave today with the Bukit Jalil Sports School team for a three-week training stint in China.